Upper Sindh-I: Completely Indigenous

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SUMBUL – 1973

The indigenously built power station has never stopped working with returns of several times of the investment made in constructing the project, making some to call it a golden goose. A KASHMIR LIFE report.

The dusky village of Sumbal, 17 kms from Kangan, has one of Kashmir’s prized assets located on Sindh rivulet – a power project. While it distinguishes the hamlet from its entire neighbourhood, the project itself is unique.

It is Kashmir’s first locally designed and constructed power house that is running uninterrupted since it was set up with no complaints and no major issues unlike its cousins downstream. Every year, it evacuates energy to the grid which is five times the investment that the state government made in it in seventies. “In a way, yes, it is a golden goose,” said a young engineer overseeing its operations. “It trips only when discharge goes up and we put it off.”

Executive Engineer Gurmeet Singh says some of the veterans have been associated with its implementation – Javed Shahmiri, B N Koul, Shiv Charan Das Dulloo and R S Gill. Singh knows the project like his palm. “I have had part of my childhood here because my father also worked on this project,” Singh said.

Conceived in sixties, the work on the project started in the summer of 1965. Most of the civil works were managed by local contractors who laid the canal and set up colonies and the main power house buildings. Part of the civil works were executed by the Build Right, a Kolkotta based firm. The electrical part of the plant was directly managed by Bharat Heavy Electrical, then Heavy Electrical only. The twin units went into generation in December 1973 and June 1974, respectively.

Project’s water conductor takes off at Kulan. The canal goes underground for 396 meters to enter the balancing reservoir – where the PDC is keen to develop a tourist facility owing to the availability of vast stretch of land running parallel to the highway. The gravitation canal is a long 11.6 km structure that zig-zags the foothills falling in the Sindh forest division to reach the forebay. In between, it passes through 400 meters of tunnel and a duct near Gund. It has a single penstock with a head of 149 meters that bifurcates to run the two Francis vertical turbines at Sumbal.

What is interesting is that the two turbines are of the capacity of 11.3 MW each but the discharge is less. “When the project was ready and the BHEL was asked to supply the two 7 MW turbines, they responded saying the state government will have to wait for two years,” Singh said. “The government was desperate to see the project taking off and purchased two machines of 11.3 MW with an idea that it will be later upgraded.”

But the capacity of the canal was the main limitation. Since it could only get 420 cusecs of water, there was no possibility of generating more than 14 MW. So the additional capacity of the machines could not be utilized.

Last year, however, the PDC improved the canal by upgrading its capacity. Now it can bring in 510 cusecs which has improved generations. The project generates 17 MW.  The project could generate more but planners have hit a major problem – the capacity of the tunnel can not be improved at all because it was deigned for water required for 14 MW only.

By now the USHP-I must have generated more than 3100 million units. Though the machine is perfectly fine but the PDC is keen to prolong its life. This has become all the more necessary as BHEL says it does not have many of the spares of the machinery because the technology has improved. Already RMU has been approved at a cost of Rs 24.99 crore that will add to its capacity by around 3 MW. The Power Finance Corporation has approved Rs 16 crore funding as early as January 2006.

Some of the spares have started landing on the site. Initially the hydraulic governors are being replaced by electronic ones. SF6 brakers would be replaced and excitation systems would be installed. Apparently it would be at the latter stage that the functional turbines would be replaced because the RMU will improve its condition, and output to add to its life.

Interestingly, the April 1970 DPR re-appropriated the fund requirement of the project, and accessed by Kashmir Life, put a cost of Rs 10.72 crore on the project. Engineers say it might have taken a bit more because of price escalations.

SERC has put its cost at Rs 69.12 crore and its tariff at Rs 0.70 per unit. The project generated 337.98 lakh units in 2010-11 and 821.21 lakh units in 2011-12.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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